Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, a 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992 when he had a year sober. He's in his 27th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he sometimes disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Monday, June 29, 2015

24 Hour Disease

Addiction's a 24 hour disease. When I shot heroin it wasn't just nine to five, five days a week. It was a full time job.

I'd steal money or merchandise to get my next fix. Then I had to find my connection before I got sick. I was running all the time.

Same when I drank. If I was upright and conscious I needed a drink. If you didn't have anything for me, or if I was broke, then I'd shoplift something to drink from a convenience store.

I was like a rat on a wheel. Running like crazy and going nowhere. Well, maybe to oblivion.

I bring this up because someone mentioned that I seemed busy yesterday. And I was. It started around four a.m. A young small voice whispering on the phone because she didn't want her family to hear her call for help. We talked and texted over several hours before she quit communicating. I hope she's alright.

Then several emails from across the country. Can you help my son? Can you help me? We're broke, but need help. Should I throw him out? Am I enabling him? How can I convince him to change?

These are heart-wrenching questions with a sense of urgency. So I venture my opinion without being judgemental - even though part of me wants to be.

To this long-term addict, the answer is obvious. But to the person who loves them - who has no experience with addicts - it's overwhelming. So I respond kindly and gently and hope that my words give them a shred of something helpful. And inside I pray the addict makes it before it's too late, before they die or suffer irreversible damage.

Later, other calls. One from a halfway house resident letting me know he finally found a job. Trivial to me, but big to him. So I congratulate him and am happy for him.

Being busy is life in the recovery business. It's not punishing work. Not digging-ditches at a 110 degrees. Instead, it's a steady grind of communication from the desperate and angry and sometimes ungrateful.

For protection I spray imaginary teflon on my brain so I can let things slide off and not stick for long - if at all. 

And I recall that a lot of kind people were there for me during the 42 years of my active using. And they didn't give up.

And that's why I'm okay being busy today.

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